Lakers go up 3-1 after beating Grizzlies in overtime

Lakers are one win away from returning to the conference semifinals.

Game 4 between the Lakers and Grizzlies was exhausting. It was ugly. Was grimy at times. But in the end, Los Angeles found it beautiful because the Lakers found a way to win it at overtime, 117-111.

The Grizzlies actually got off to a much better start in the first quarter as they got off a fast 10-4 start. But what we saw for most of the first half was an energized Lakers defense giving little to nothing against Memphis. In fact, the role players were the ones taking charge as Malik Beasley, Troy Brown Jr., Dennis Schröder, and Austin Reaves made big plays on both ends (though this was a detriment to something else; more on this in a bit). Austin’s free throws gave the Lakers a 53-38 lead.

But the Grizzlies’ stars got hot at the end of the half. For whatever reason, the Lakers couldn’t sustain their energy and Memphis took advantage. They went on a 14-1 run at the end of the second quarter with Desmond Bane getting in rhythm (7 points in that run). Suddenly, it was only a 54-52 lead going into halftime.

We wondered about Anthony Davis’s health going into the second half. We also wondered about Rui Hachimura not getting as much run in the first half when he was having such an outstanding series. Nevertheless, it was a Memphis pace as the Grizzlies took over on the defensive end. While Hachimura tied the game at 81 near the end of the third, Ja Morant burst through and had a ferocious dunk to beat the third quarter buzzer.

Desmond Bane and his cannonball arms made a three-pointer to give the Grizz a 97-90 advantage with five minutes left. Then D’Angelo Russell, who really hadn’t played well all series but had a bit of a burst in the third quarter, made some huge plays. In NBA Jam terms, he got on fire after making three consecutive three-pointers to give the Lakers a 99-97 lead.

A little back-and-forth happened at the end of regulation. Ja split his foul shots to give Memphis a 102-100 lead. Then Austin Reaves was able to tie it up with a lay-up. Morant missed a lay-up on the other end and the Lakers had a chance to take the lead. But the Defensive Player of the Winner Jaren Jackson Jr. packed Hachimura’s attempted dunk. The Grizzlies ran back and Bane made a lay-up after a nifty behind-the-back pass by Morant. The Lakers had 6.7 seconds to tie or win. Or fail miserably.

They tied:

Ja Morant tried to get a shot off but Davis swatted it easily. LeBron made a heave from backcourt after the buzzer but it was entertaining, nonetheless.

We would go to overtime.

From there, the Lakers led the whole time. LeBron James and Anthony Davis overwhelmed the Grizz from there. Davis’s tip off Austin’s miss gave the Lakers a 111-108 lead. After Ja missed a shot, LeBron went back the other way to convert a lay-up while drawing a foul from everyone’s favorite antagonist, Dillon Brooks. That gave them a 5-point lead with 29 seconds left and that was pretty much the game. The Lakers are one win away from advancing to the conference semifinals.

Memphis is a rough and tumble team and they’ve historically been a tough out in the playoffs. Despite a depleted frontcourt, they dominated the offensive boards for most of the game (the Lakers eventually closed the gap and actually won the rebounding battle, 52-49). While all Grizzlies starters scored in double figures, they shot horribly from three (9 for 42, .214). They still needed more from Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard, who inexplicably played only 9 and 14 minutes, respectively. Felt like the Grizzlies could’ve used Jones’s calmness and Kennard’s sniping.

As for the Lakers, I wasn’t a fan of Rui Hachimura being limited early just because the other bench players played well for a bit. Hachimura never got into rhythm but despite being only 2 for 9, he never really played outside of himself. He did close out the game after D’Angelo Russell fouled out.

I still don’t know why the Lakers choose not to use Wenyen Gabriel and Mo Bamba when Anthony Davis sits. I’m not asking for 20 minutes but I’m pretty sure they’re capable enough of holding the fort for a few minutes while the stars rest. Darvin Ham gets a little obsessed on playing small and that might come back to hurt them in the end if they’re not careful.

It’s easy to look at LeBron’s 22-20-7 line and think he played well. He didn’t play great overall but he did come through when they needed him the most. Same with D’Angelo Russell. He ended with 17 points but his shot selection wasn’t the greatest. But the Lakers don’t win without Russell as his three threes were immense.

Anthony Davis hurt his hip and had another underwhelming offensive game (12 points). But he did score five big points in OT and he blocked four more shots on defense. Jarred Vanderbilt got going on offense early; he scored 15 points. Austin Reaves actually led the team in scoring with 23 points while Hachimura was out of rhythm for the first time this series; he only scored 7 points.

Desmond Bane ended with a game-high 36 points. Ja Morant had 19 but he shot 24 times (also, he’s really gotta stop being reckless on his drives). Jaren Jackson, Jr. tallied 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Jackson sure showed why he won Defensive Player of the Year.

The scene shifts back to Memphis for Game 5 on Wednesday. The Grizzlies are on the brink of elimination so it’s really all hands on deck for them. The Lakers can’t relax just because they have a 3-1 lead. Just because Greek Philosopher Andrew Bynum said that “closeout games are easy” doesn’t mean they actually are. Remember that we’ve seen 3-1 leads be blown throughout the years (L.A. was once there at 2006).

Let’s not assume it ends on Wednesday night just yet.